Act 01: “Artificial Enemies” (人造 エネミー）
This many screenshots was much necessary for a graphically stunning show such as this, and I didn’t even get in all the screencaps I wanted to without being at risk of completely overloading the system. It’s urban gangs, grungy street style and graffiti with Mekakucity Actors, which is a visually rich and abstract in a way that harks back to shows such as Steins; Gate or Durarara to create a stark and juxtaposed parallel. While the main plotline has barely been scratched in this first episode, I’m quite intrigued despite being left quite confused.
The story begins with a mysterious girl asking our main character whether he remembers her. Upon answering in the negative, she assuages his rather flat worries and begins to tell him the story of how they first met. I really liked the way we panned through the various main characters and I have a feeling that the nameless, mysterious narrator is going to end up being one of the female characters shown – possibly the white-haired girl whom they focused on for longer.
The setting is a futuristic, technologically-rich Japan and our main protagonist just so happens to be a pretty pathetic, yet entirely relatable NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training), and who hasn’t stepped out of his home for two years. I don’t think we are told his name throughout the entirety of this episode, but for the sake of ease, his name is Shintaro and voiced by the very young-sounding Terashima Takuma. The very thought of having to leave his house sends him into a melodramatic panic and a very vocal and loud monologue about the treacherous nature of the outside world. All of this changes, however, when his only “companion,” an AI whom it is implied is also a virus or a bug on his computer, Ene (Asumi Kana) causes him to spill coke all over his keyboard and he has no other option than to head to a department store and buy himself a new one. Ironically, his first day out in two years ends in a hostage situation, which would totally put anyone off the outside world, especially someone who has spent their life as a hikikomori. However, here’s where the juicy stuff starts, and Shintaro meets two interesting individuals who are finding the entire situation far too humorous for a pair being held by armed terrorists. All that’s left is for Shintaro to save the day – or rather, to call on Ene to save the day for him – and ultimately pass out from stress and sensory overload of being in contact with actual human beings. It literally is as bizarre as it sounds.
As for the plot itself, I’m still undecided. Definitely three-episode test kind of show because as of yet, I seriously have no idea what’s going on. However. The dialogue between Shintaro and Ene is, to be quite frank, pretty damn hilarious. Shintaro is a fabulous combination of an utter sloth, attached at the fingers to his computer, and a tragic drama queen. You can just feel how hard it is for him to exist in the tangible world, much less during a hot Japanese summer. He’s pathetic and selfish but I get sadistic satisfaction and am thoroughly entertained by his ‘suffering.’ Right off the bat, Ene kind of annoyed me and it’s not so much her character – which I do like – but her voice, which, for the first ten minutes, was just so loud and grating and set my teeth on edge. If the writers were going for the nails-on-chalkboard kind of irritating, Asumi Kana is doing a pretty good job at emulating that level of rankling. She is funny, though, and seems to exist as the direct counterpart to Shintaro’s lazy attitude. She’s loud, boisterous, annoying and just plain mean to him and so demanding of his time and of getting her way. I think it’ll take some time to get used to her voice, but I greatly enjoy the almost brother-sister dynamic between the two, with Shintaro being the resigned and long-suffering older brother to Ene’s bratty younger sister. I’m looking forward to seeing how their relationship develops over the course of the series.
This show is promising and it’s already got that sort of heavy grunge, indie feel to it and could go either way to be honest. Or, it might just do the whole K series thing and lead up to nothing, really. I don’t know but I’m hoping for the best. With such a colourful array of main characters, one can’t help but hope for something really cool and dramatic. But we shall have to see. As far as first impressions go, I rate this a 7/10, mostly because I have no idea what’s going on, but had I read the manga, and played the game or listened to the original song series, I might be more invested in it than I am at the moment. Nonetheless, I’ll be watching this to the end for the awesome colours and unique graphics if anything. For an Aniplex show, I’m expecting great things and I hope this doesn’t disappoint!